Audience engagement at events

Blog | Event Technology

How do you keep your audiences engaged at your event and not switched off? One of our clients asked us this very question so off we went to do some research.

When people attend conferences these days there is a level of expectation that they will be involved somehow in the content – whether that is in a Q&A, live polling, debate or other. Gone are the days of hours of death by PowerPoint….or not, but that’s another story! 

Firstly, the content should be relevant and interesting delivered by engaging speakers with varying session formats. 

Then there is event tech – the choice is huge but there are broadly two options: a web-based audience interaction system or an event app.

Outline your objectives

You need to be clear on what type of audience engagement you want at your event, and this will differ by event type. Areas to consider: 

  • Networking
  • Agenda scheduling
  • Holding/sharing documents
  • Adding an element of fun
  • Audience tracking 
  • Gamification

Both solutions provide audience interaction at events but in different ways:

An audience interaction system 

If the objective is solely to have interaction in sessions, then an audience interaction solution such as Glisser or could be more cost effective. They are quick and easy to implement – both are web-based browsers not app based. Various providers and packages are available but broadly the following options are available:

  • Functionality for your audience
  • Q&A – with moderation settings
  • Polling and interactive quizzes – questions are pushed to the audience’s devices and answers shown on main screen, continuously updated as the audience answers.
  • Live slide sharing – no more photos of screens! 
  • Collect ideas from the audience to form content 
  • Twitter wall functionality – delegates can view any tweets linked to the event/client’s hashtag even if they don’t have a Twitter account

Benefits for the conference organiser

  • Branding! You can upload logos and select the best accent colour to match your brand
  • Encourage event feedback after each session, i.e., delegates are only able to download slides if they answer feedback questions
  • Event analytics to enable calculation of the event’s ROI – poll and voting answers, log of Q&A, length of time on slides, what slides have been downloaded, number of users, most popular users (the influencers!), data from the Twitter wall 

Also, interactions can be anonymous – to you or to other delegates – the user decides how much information to share about themselves. GDPR happy!

An event app

For larger, more complex events with higher footfall then an event app could be the solution. We had a chat with Crowd Comms at The Meetings Show and followed up with them a few weeks later. They have two pretty cool app solutions: the exhibition app which is designed for larger or more complex events and the conference app for more standard conferences. 

Broadly they are very similar – fully brandable, 9 widgets on the home page, lead generation and capture, audience engagement and interactive functionality, i.e., polling, Q&A, discussions.

Because the exhibition app is designed for more complex, high footfall events there is also the additional feature of attendance tracking. You set up a QR code which exhibitors or session room hosts can scan from the attendees’ device or attendees can scan themselves into sessions. All voluntary of course!

Both app options allow gamification, which is essentially rewarding required behaviours from the delegate. If you know where you need better engagement from your delegates you can gamify them. 

Trigger points can then be built into the app so the user wins points when they display this behaviour – adding a profile photo and information, visiting exhibitors, looking at pages/other areas on the app, messaging other delegates or taking part in polls for example.

What to consider

To see which is the best, most effective solution for your event you need to be able to answer these questions (and allow the supplier to quote!)

  • Number of users
  • Date of event (timescales may dictate what is available or what can be done!)
  • Engagement objectives
  • Gamification objectives and requirements (app only)
  • Overall objectives for the solution

We are now working with the client to fully define their priority objectives to ensure they get the most out of their investment. But don’t have tech just for the sake of it, the data won’t give you what you need, and it won’t enhance the attendee experience.

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Paola Davis

Senior Project Manager
Author Bio:
I have been working in the events industry for the past 15 years in various guises. In-house corporate and non-profit, freelancer and co-founding an events trade show. Working with ZiaBia gives me a fantastic opportunity to bring all this experience together.

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